Maybe it is part of being older, or maybe it is part of being a parent, but the value of my time is something I think about more now than I did a few years ago. Actually, I don’t think value is the right word – you can’t put a price tag on time, and you can’t buy more of it. Importance maybe? Though is time itself important or what we do with the time we have that is important? I’d argue the latter. The paradoxality of time. I think that’s probably accurate. Time is both limitless and limited.
It’s been a big week in our house. My oldest daughter is going back to pre-school in a few days, my younger daughter is nailing potty training, and the baby boy is adding oatmeal to his diet. All milestones and achievements worth celebrating, all happening so fast – at least it feels that way. I mean, wasn’t my oldest just in diapers? Wasn’t the baby just born? How can I even have three babies, wasn’t I just in high school? What the hell is going on here?
Also this week, I had a terrible client give me an excellent reminder of the importance of how I should perceive time. Some technical glitch in his iCalendar (though I am not 100% sure it wasn’t user error on his part) didn’t adjust the meeting invitation for time zone differences and he showed up to a conference call three hours early. In the angry phone call to me that followed, he reminded me no less than three times that he bills $650 per hour, and that his time is too valuable to have to rearrange his schedule. I had two immediate thoughts. First, his clients are getting absolutely robbed. Second, his time is in no way more valuable than time, nor mine any more valuable than his. If he wants to tell me the services he provides during his work day are more valuable, sure. But if he wants to tell me that the time he spends on this Earth is more valuable than mine, then I have some suggestion on what he can do to himself with some of that time.
I’ve been reading a lot about Stoic philosophy the last new months, and a central tenet is that we are all going to die. Some uplifting stuff, am I right? But the point is that we don’t control how long we get to live, and that dying isn’t anything to fear or even avoid. Death is a natural occurrence, and as such it can’t be bad, because it is part of the natural (and therefore good) course of things. The most powerful Roman emperor is just as dead as poorest slave, and some day my most arrogant client will be just as dead as me. Time went on before us, and time will continue to go on after us. And in my moment of frustration, I found a small measure of comfort in that.
Whether time feels like it crawling or flying by, I want to challenge myself with making more intentional choices on how I spend my time. If my kid wants five minutes my attention, is that an annoyance or something worth way more than $650? Time spent with my wife, time spend with friends, time spent running, time spent eating some cake, it all must be time spent on purpose. Otherwise it is time that’s gone without being taken full advantage of. So when one of my kids asks for Daddy for the thousandth time when they should have been asleep an hour ago, is that waste of time or is that exactly what my limited amount of time is for?
Time will keep going no matter how much of it I choose to utilize wisely or waste. Now that I am at a point in live where I am thinking about these things, I can’t help but look back at time I’ve wasted. I mean, sure it was fun in the moment playing so much NCAA Football on my PlayStation, but in the grand scheme what did I get out of my twenty consecutive national championships?
Time is a traveler. It will keep on going. It is up to me to make the most of my trip.